Responses have varied greatly following the federal government’s approval of Kentucky’s Section 1115 Medicaid waiver that will require “able-bodied adults” on Medicaid to work in exchange for health coverage.
The approval of the waiver, better known as Kentucky HEALTH, comes a year and a half after Gov. Matt Bevin first sought to redesign Kentucky’s $11 billion, federal-state program which covers about one-third of the state’s population.
Under the waiver, about half those in Kentucky who are covered under the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act will be required to work 20 hours a week or volunteer in their communities for that many hours each week or receive the equivalent number of hours of education.
Administration officials call that “community engagement” a key component of the program. They claim the program will help beneficiaries “transition” to commercial insurance and better employment opportunities.
Bevin said the innovative program will improve people’s lives and will be “transformational in all ways.”
However, there are several who disagree, saying the progress Kentucky has achieved in health care recently is coming to a halt.
“These radical and counterproductive changes will result in nearly 100,000 Kentuckians losing coverage,” said Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Kentucky’s new policy does estimate nearly 100,000 fewer Kentuckians will have health coverage in five years, than if the policy were not implemented.
While comments varied amongst lawmakers and analysts, many Kentuckians believe this is needed.
Comments on our Facebook page ranged from this “is a step in the right direction” to “everyone can do something to become a productive member in the society.” And there were more of those comments than those against the waiver.
Although we believe reform is needed for many government programs to ensure those who truly need the help receive it, we doubt Kentucky HEALTH will make a large difference.
A Kaiser Family Foundation study estimates that 60 percent of Medicaid enrollees are already employed, and 35 percent of non-working Medicaid enrollees say illness or disability is the main reason for their unemployment. In addition, 28 percent reported care-taking obligations, while 18 percent couldn’t work because they were in school.
If the majority of folks on Medicaid thanks to the expansion are already working, will the waiver truly have the impact Bevin and other officials believe? We doubt it.
Even though many Kentuckians believe this is needed, we doubt the program will be “transformational” as Bevin and others hope.